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Single piece container and method for making
5685478 Single piece container and method for making
Patent Drawings:Drawing: 5685478-2    Drawing: 5685478-3    Drawing: 5685478-4    Drawing: 5685478-5    
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Inventor: Tang
Date Issued: November 11, 1997
Application: 08/617,998
Filed: March 18, 1996
Inventors: Tang; Donald (Potomac, MD)
Assignee:
Primary Examiner: Elkins; Gary E.
Assistant Examiner:
Attorney Or Agent: Wolf, Greenfield & Sacks, P.C.Sorkin, Esq.; Paul D.
U.S. Class: 229/117.14; 229/148; 229/911; 493/88; 493/909
Field Of Search: 229/117.14; 229/148; 229/910; 229/911; 229/912; 206/520; 493/88; 493/295; 493/909
International Class:
U.S Patent Documents: 1009804; 2355729; 3198378; 5228617; 5358175; 5489063
Foreign Patent Documents: 389254
Other References:









Abstract: A single piece container and method for making the same are presented. The container has an opening and a body and includes first and second pairs of opposing covering flaps and a pair of opposing handles. The covering flaps cover the container body opening so as to keep the container contents in place.
Claim: What is claimed is:

1. A container comprising an integral formed container body made from a single piece of material having a bottom, a sidewall, and a first pair and a second pair of opposingedges defining a container body opening, a first pair of opposing covering flaps are hingeably disposed at respective opposing edges of the first pair of opposing edges, a second pair of opposing covering flaps are hingeably disposed at a respectiveopposing edge of the second pair of opposing edges, and a pair of opposing handles are hingeably disposed at respective opposing edges of the second pair of opposing edges;

wherein the pair of opposing handles includes a handle coupling means for releasably coupling the pair of opposing handles by inserting a first portion of the first opposing handle into a second portion of the second opposing handle; and

wherein the second portion is surrounded by the second opposing handle.

2. The container as recited in claim 1 wherein the first pair of opposing covering flaps includes a coupling means for releasably coupling the first pair of opposing covering flaps.

3. The container as recited in claim 1 wherein the second pair of opposing covering flaps includes a coupling means for releasably coupling the second pair of opposing covering flaps.

4. The container as recited in claim 2 wherein the coupling means comprise:

a slot on the first opposing covering flap; and

a tab on the second opposing covering flap of the first pair.

5. The container as recited in claim 3 wherein the coupling means comprise:

a slot on the first opposing covering flap; and

a tab on the second opposing covering flap of the second pair.

6. The container as recited in claim 1 wherein the handle coupling means comprises:

a handle tab disposed on the first opposing handle; and

a handle slot disposed on the second opposing handle.

7. The container as recited in claim 1 wherein the handle coupling means comprise:

a locking snap disposed on the first opposing handle; and

a locking receiver disposed on the second opposing handle.

8. The container as recited in claim 1 further comprising:

a stacking lug at the bottom of the container body.

9. The container as recited in claim 1 wherein the formed container body is formed by a thermal forming process.

10. The container as recited in claim 1 wherein the formed container body is formed by an injection molding process.

11. The container as recited in claim 1 wherein the single piece of material is a plastic.

12. A container, comprising:

an integral formed container body made from a single piece of material having a bottom, a sidewall, and a first pair and a second pair of opposing edges defining a container body opening,

a first pair of opposing covering flaps hingeably disposed at respective opposing edges of the first pair of opposing edges,

a second pair of opposing covering flaps hingeably disposed at a respective opposing edge of the second pair of opposing edges,

a pair of opposing handles hingeably disposed at respective opposing edges of the second pair of opposing edges,

a locking snap disposed on the first opposing handle, and

a locking receiver disposed on the second opposing handle.

13. A method of making a container from a single piece of material, the method comprising the steps of:

(a) forming in the single piece of material a container body including a bottom, a first pair of opposing edges and a second pair of opposing edges, the first and second pairs of opposing edges defining a container body opening;

(b) forming a first pair of opposing covering flaps, each flap hingeably disposed at a respective opposing edge in the first pair of opposing edges;

(c) forming a second pair of opposing covering flaps, each flap hingeably disposed at a respective opposing edge in the second pair of opposing edges;

(d) forming a pair of opposing handles, each handle hingeably disposed at a respective opposing edge in the second pair of opposing edges;

(e) forming a first portion in the first opposing handle; and

(f) forming a second portion in the second opposing handle, the second portion to receive the first portion and the second portion being surrounded by the second opposing handle.

(f) forming a second portion in the second opposing handle, the second portion to receive the first portion and the second portion being surrounded by the second opposing handle.

14. The method as recited in claim 13 further comprising the steps of:

cutting a slot in the first opposing covering flap in the first pair of covering flaps; and

forming a tab in the second opposing covering flap in the first pair of covering flaps, the tab fitting in the slot.

15. The method as recited in claim 13 further comprising the steps of:

cutting a slot in the first opposing covering flaps in the second pair of covering flaps; and

forming a tab in the second opposing covering flap in the second pair of covering flaps, the tab fitting in the slot.

16. The method as recited in claim 13 further comprising the step of forming a stacking lug at the bottom of the container body.

17. The method as recited in claim 13 wherein the step of forming the container body comprises a thermal forming process.

18. The method as recited in claim 13 wherein the single piece of material is a plastic.

19. The method as recited in claim 13, wherein:

step (e) includes forming a locking snap in the first opposing handle; and

step (f) includes forming a locking receiver in the second opposing handle.

20. The method as recited in claim 13, wherein:

step (e) includes forming a handle tab in the first opposing handle; and

step (f) includes forming a handle slot in the second opposing handle.

21. The method as recited in claim 18 wherein the plastic is a recyclable plastic.

22. The method as recited in claim 18 wherein the plastic comprises recycled material.

23. A method of making a container from a single piece of material, the method comprising the steps of:

(a) forming in the single piece of material a container body including a bottom, a first pair of opposing edges and a second pair of opposing edges, the first and second pairs of opposing edges defining a container body opening;

(b) forming a first pair of opposing covering flaps, each flap hingeably disposed at a respective opposing edge in the first pair of opposing edges;

(c) forming a second pair of opposing covering flaps, each flap hingeably disposed at a respective opposing edge in the second pair of opposing edges;

(d) forming a pair of opposing handles, each handle hingeably disposed at a respective opposing edge in the second pair of opposing edges;

(e) forming a locking snap in the first opposing handle; and

(f) forming a locking receiver in the second opposing handle.
Description: BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

1. Field of the Invention

This invention relates to a single piece container and to a method of making the same.

2. Discussion of the Related Art

It is often necessary to provide an inexpensive container to hold various items. One familiar situation is for left-over food in a restaurant. Another situation is take-out food, such as Chinese food, which is typically provided in inexpensivepaper containers.

A familiar container 1 for leftovers is shown in FIG. 1. This container is usually made of stiff paper folded into a rectangular configuration to hold food. Flaps 5 are provided to cover an opening and keep the contents in place. A tab or slotis provided to keep the flaps 5 in place. For ease in carrying the leftover container 1, a metal handle 3 is provided. The metal handle 3 also provides structural integrity. As mentioned above, the leftover container 1 is usually made of stiff paper,and this paper is typically coated to resist moisture degradation.

The leftover container 1 is constructed by folding a paper sheet into shape. External to the container are at least two folds 9 which serve to hold together the sides of the container. The metal handle 3 fits into a pair of pivot/connectingholes 7, and maintains the folds 9 in position. Once each end of the metal handle 3 is in a respective pivot/connecting hole 7, the leftover container 1 is complete and ready to receive food.

The leftover container 1 of FIG. 1 has certain drawbacks. While the paper material can be prepared by a machine, the container must still be folded into shape. This adds to the cost of manufacturing the container. Furthermore, since thecontainer is a product of folding, the folds represent additional material which does not actually hold the contents, i.e., the folds are needed to maintain the structure of the container and do not serve to enlarge the container. Thus, the foldsrequire additional material without increasing the size.

The use of the metal handle 3 has shortcomings of its own. Since the paper material is usually stiff, it is difficult to place the metal handle 3 into the pivot/connecting hole 7, making the folding operation difficult. Since the metal handle 3is used to keep the leftover container 1 together, the metal handle must be of a significant thickness and strength. In addition, the metal handle must be moved out of the way in order to place contents in the container as well as remove those contentsfrom the container. Also important, since the handle is metal, the container cannot be placed in a microwave oven to re-heat the contents due to the possibility of sparking. Further, the folds do not provide a watertight container. While the materialmay be coated with plastic, moisture can still find a way out via the folds. Also, the paper of this leftover container container cannot be recycled easily. Finally, this container cannot be easily reused by a user since it cannot be adequatelycleaned.

In summary, the design of the classic leftover container 1 suffers from a number of disadvantages including using more material than is necessary for optimum container size, a design which is not recyclable, that cannot be placed directly in themicrowave and that cannot be washed in a dishwasher.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

A single piece container according to the present invention includes an integral formed container body made from a single piece of material. The body has a bottom and a side wall and first and second pairs of opposing edges which define acontainer body opening. A first pair of opposing covering flaps are provided, with each flap hingeably disposed at a respective opposing edge of the first pair of opposing edges. A second pair of opposing covering flaps are provided with each flaphingeably disposed at a respective opposing edge in the second pair of opposing edges. A pair of opposing handles are also hingeably disposed at a respective opposing edge of the second pair of opposing edges.

A method of making a container from a single piece of material includes forming in the single piece of material a container body including a bottom, a first pair of opposing edges and a second pair of opposing edges, the first and second pairs ofopposing edges defining a container body opening. A first pair of opposing covering flaps are formed, each flap hingeably disposed at a respective opposing edge in the first pair of opposing edges. In addition, the method includes forming a second pairof opposing covering flaps, each flap hingeably disposed at a respective opposing edge in the second pair of opposing edges and forming a pair of opposing handles, each handle hingeably disposed at a respective opposing edge in the second pair ofopposing edges.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

Other features and advantages of the single piece container according to the present invention will become apparent from the following detailed description of embodiments thereof, given by way of non-limiting examples with reference to theaccompanying drawings.

In the drawings:

FIG. 1 is a perspective view of a leftover container as known in the related art;

FIG. 2 is a perspective view of a first embodiment of a single piece container of the present invention;

FIG. 3 is a top view of the first embodiment of the present invention;

FIG. 4 is a perspective view of the first embodiment of the present invention in a closed position;

FIG. 5 is a top view of the first embodiment of the present invention in the closed position as shown in FIG. 4;

FIG. 6 is a perspective view of a second embodiment of the single piece container of the present invention;

FIG. 7 is a perspective view of a third embodiment of the single piece container of the present invention; and

FIG. 8 is a side view of the container body of the single piece container of the present invention.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION

With reference to the drawing views, generally and schematically shown is a single piece container 10 embodying this invention. As shown in FIG. 2, the single piece container 10 has a container body 17 which in the present embodiment is of asubstantially rectangular shape and includes a sidewall 19. The container body 17 also has a bottom 21. The container body 17 has an opening defined by two pairs of opposing edges 13a, 13b and 13c, 13d. Integrally formed, i.e., from the same piece ofmaterial, with the container body 17 are two pairs of opposing covering flaps 11a, 11b and 11c, 11d. The first pair of covering flaps 11a, 11b are hingeably connected to the container body 17 at opposing edges 13a, 13b, respectively. As shown in FIG.2, the other set of opposing covering flaps 11c, 11d are hingeably connected to the container body 17 at edges 13c and 13d, respectively. In addition, a pair of opposing handles 15-1, 15-2 are also hingeably connected to the container body 17 atopposing edges 13c and 13d, respectively. In other words, as shown in FIG. 2, handle 15-1 and covering flap 11c are hingeably connected at edge 13c while handle 15-2 and covering flap 11d are hingeably connected at edge 13d.

It should be noted here that the container body 10, the handles 15-1, 15-2 and covering flaps 11a-11d are of a single piece of material and the flaps being hingeably connected does not indicate that there is a separation of the flaps from thecontainer, hingeably connected refers to the movement of which the covering flaps are capable. The edges 13a-13d represent the points about which the covering flaps 11a-11d rotate.

As discussed below, in order to maintain the contents within the container body, the two pairs of opposing covering flaps 11a-11d are folded at each respective edge to cover the container body opening. In order to keep the flaps in place, a slot23 is provided in covering flap 11a and a bifurcated tab 25 is provided on covering flap 11b. When in the closed position, the tab 25 will fit into the slot 23 thereby keeping the container closed. In operation, flaps 11c, 11d would be folded overfirst followed by flap 11a with covering flap 11b folded over last so that the tab 25 fits into the slot 23.

As shown in FIG. 3, from above, the single piece container 10 provides for a clear path for placing items into the container body 17. When the covering flaps 11a-11d and the handles 15-1, 15-2 are not in a closed position, they do not interferewith either the placing or removing items in or from the container body 17. The covering flaps 11a-11d along with the handles 15-1, 15-2 can be placed in a position so as to guide any loose product into the container body 17 and therefore together actas a funnel.

As shown in FIG. 4, the single piece container 10 with the covering flaps 11a-11d in the closed position will keep substantially all the product within the container body 17. The handles 15-1, 15-2 can then be used to carry the single piececontainer 10. As shown in FIG. 5, the interlocking of the tab 25 and the slot 23 when flaps 11a and 11b are positioned above flaps 11c and 11d will keep the container closed.

Further, referring to FIG. 2, a male locking snap 16 is provided in handle 15-2. Corresponding to the male locking snap 16 is a female locking receiver 18 disposed in handle 15-1. After the covering flaps 11a-11d are in the closed position, thehandles are brought into contact with one another so that the female locking receiver 18 will receive the male locking snap 16 thus holding the handles together and in place. As a result, the container can then be picked up with one hand by a userwithout having to bring the handles together since they will naturally want to remain disconnected from one another.

An alternative mechanism for keeping the handles together is shown in FIG. 3. A handle tab 20 is provided in handle 15-1 and a handle slot 22 is provided in handle 15-2. When the handles are brought into contact with one another, the handlestab 20 will slide into the handle slot 22 thereby keeping the handles connected to one another.

The single piece container 10 is made from a single piece of material, usually plastic, by either a thermal forming or injection molding process. The plastic used will depend on the characteristics desired such as, e.g., durability, weight,color, etc. The single piece of plastic is placed on a die and heated to a temperature which makes the plastic malleable. Using a combination of vacuum and the shape of the die itself, the container body 17 is first formed in the plastic material. After this step, the opening of the container body 17 has been defined. The excess material is cut away leaving only the covering flaps 11a, 11b and an outer periphery of the handles 15-1 and 15-2. The second pair of covering flaps 11c, 11d are cutfrom the area within the periphery of the handles 15-1 and 15-2. At this point, the slot 23 is cut in the covering flap 11a and the covering flap 11b is cut so as to include the tab 25.

As shown in FIG. 6, a second embodiment of the single piece container 10 is presented. In the second embodiment, the opposing covering flaps 11a and 11b do not include the slot 23 and the tab 25, respectively. In the second embodiment, the slot23 is disposed in covering flap 11c and the tab 25 is provided on the covering flap 11d. In other words, the slot 23 and tab 25 combination are provided on the covering flaps 11c, 11d which are co-hinged with the handles 15-1, 15-2, respectively. Inthe second embodiment, covering flaps 11a and 11b would be closed first followed by flap 11c and finally flap 11d with the tab 25 fitting into the slot 23.

In a third embodiment, the slot 23 is disposed in the sidewall 19 while the tab 25 is disposed on one of the covering flaps 11a-11d. As shown in FIG. 7, the opposing covering flaps 11a-11d are provided. In the third embodiment, the coveringflap 11b is a little shorter than the remaining covering flaps. In addition, as shown, covering flap 11a is a little longer than the other covering flaps. In operation, covering flaps 11c and 11d would be folded over the opening of the containerfollowed by covering flap 11b. Lastly, covering flap 11a would be folded over the other flaps and the tab 25 would be fitted into the slot 23. Covering flap 11a also includes a preformed bend 27 which, when flap 11a is closed across the opening, willalign with edge 11b. As can be seen, any of the covering flaps 11a-11d can be made of additional length and provided with the tab 25. Provided the slot 23 is disposed in the sidewall opposite the flap with the tab 25, the container will be closable.

Each of the foregoing embodiments can include a stacking lug 29 in order to make the stacking and separation of multiple single piece containers possible. As shown in FIG. 8, the stacking lug 29 is located adjacent the sidewall 19 and the bottom21. The stacking lug 29 extends from the sidewall 19 so as to prevent a bottom 21 of a single piece container 10 within another single piece container 10 from reaching the bottom of the outer single piece container. The stacking lug 29 has a portionwhich extends out into the container body opening. The shape of the stacking lug 29 is such that it will not make the removal of the single piece container from either a thermal processing die or an injection molding die difficult.

One of ordinary skill in the art can see that the single piece container can be made from many different types of plastics as well as either by thermal forming or injection molding. The single piece container can be made from a material that iseither transparent or can have a design placed on the material. In addition, any part of the single piece container can be embossed with different designs or ornamentations.

While preferred embodiments of the invention have been described with a certain degree of particularity with reference to the drawings, obvious modifications and variations are possible in light of the above teachings. It is therefore to beunderstood that within the scope of the appended claims, the invention may be practiced other than thus specifically described.

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